Out of the woods: Meet wood turner Eleanor Lakelin

Eleanor Lakelin will exhibit at the fourth annual Wizardry in Wood this week. Photo: Alun Calendar / Cockpit Arts

A BURR is not a good sign for a tree. These growths and grain deformities are an indication of distress, usually caused by injury or fungus.

For wood turners like Eleanor Lakelin, however, these imperfections serve as the foundation for the next great work of art.

“I’m very interested in the impact that natural processes – like time and weather – have on the shape and form of the wood,” she says.

Eleanor’s knack for taking flaws and turning them into something unique and beautiful has established her as one of the most sought-after artists to showcase work in the fourth annual Wizardry of Wood exhibition next week.

The event is one of the largest exhibitions of woodturning in the UK. Held over three days at Carpenters’ Hall, it highlights the work of up and coming designer makers alongside well established craftsmen.

Eleanor has carved out a spot amongst the latter, despite having taken up the craft less than a decade ago. A former teacher, she retrained as a cabinet-maker in the late ’90s, and began designing and making furniture for retail stores, West End shows and private commissions. It seems like a fairly big leap, but a childhood spent running amuck in rural Wales had imbued a strong affinity with wood.

“The only places to play where I grew up were either up the river or down in the woods, so I’ve always loved it as a material,” she says.

“I think it’s very warm, and very fascinating – it’s grown for centuries, well beyond our lifetime, and that makes you think about time and our relationship with the earth.”

Spotting a wooden vessel at Collect (the international art fair for contemporary objects) in 2008, she began experimenting with a lathe, eventually teaching herself how to create intricate vessels using a mixture of carving and sandblasting.

In 2011, Eleanor was awarded a bursary for studio space from the Worshipful Company of Turners and Cockpit Arts, which enabled her to take up woodturning full time. She has since had her own pieces exhibited at Collect, as well as Taste Contemporary Craft at Art Monte Carlo, Design Miami and Contemporary Applied Arts in London.

Eleanor’s pieces are contemporary in form; though appear as though they have been created through centuries of natural erosion. All are crafted from dead and decommissioned trees felled in the British Isles.

Her work will be on display this weekend alongside that of makers such as Ray Key, Louise Hibbert, Nick Agar and Angus Clyne, as well as the Kew Economic Botany Collection, a rare collection of historically significant examples of wood and woodturning that has never been on display to the public before.

Eleanor says that woodturning has enjoyed its resurgence along with other handicrafts as people begin to appreciate objects with a story behind them.

“I think people are beginning to realise the way that we consume things is unsustainable,” she says.

“Th ey ask more questions now, they want to understand more about how things are made.”

Wizardry in Wood runs from 12-15 October at Carpenters’ Hall, Throgmorton Avenue EC2N 2JJ